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True North 2019: Sculpture Exhibit in The Houston Heights

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

True North 2019

This annual sculpture exhibit titled True North 2019 is the sixth one since its origination in the year 2014. Every year eight prominent artists are selected to feature their original sculptures for nine months. Located in the Houston Heights along Heights Boulevard, these sculptures delight and perhaps amaze passersby with their originality of design. This exhibit was on display from March 15 to December 15, 2019.

It is always fun trying to decipher what artists may have been thinking or what may have inspired their designs. Occasionally it is easier to determine, and at other times, it could be a head-scratcher.

Let’s take a look at this year’s pieces of sculpture gracing the wide boulevard in the Heights. I will share some of my opinions with you.

“Home Fire” by Damon Thomas in the True North 2019 sculpture exhibit

“Home Fire” by Damon Thomas in the True North 2019 sculpture exhibit

Damon Thomas

The sculpture titled “Home Fire” by Damon Thomas stands seven feet tall. It is one of two art pieces in this year’s show that have ceramic components. In this case, it is the logs at the base of the metal flame. Before this year, no artist has used ceramics in their outdoor sculptures on Heights Boulevard.

For anyone who has camped outdoors, this sculpture should bring back memories of gathering around a flickering fire, roasting marshmallows, singing camp songs, and sharing stories. The warmth of the light would be a welcome sight, particularly in cold or frosty days or evenings. Has Damon Thomas ever whittled a stick and used that stick to toast a marshmallow? My guess is yes to that question.

Look in the 900 blocks of Heights Boulevard to see this evocative piece of art. Damon Thomas lives in Houston and has his art studio in the Houston Heights.

Michelle O’Michael

“Moon Tree” is the name of the whimsical sculpture created by Houston Heights resident Michelle O’Michael. I have yet to see any trees growing on the moon from looking at photos or videos. But imaginations never need to be limited by reality when it comes to art.

There are crescent-shaped cutouts in this steel sculpture that also contains glass and some solar-powered lighting. It does somewhat resemble what we view from the earth when gazing at the moon at different times of the month.

Near the top of this piece is a ball with spider-like legs emanating in all directions. Who knows what lies deep beneath the surface of the moon? We may still discover wonders on our moon and beyond when exploring the vastness of space.

Jeffrey Forster

This artist not only teaches ceramics at the Glassell School of Art, which is a part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, but is the department head as well. Jeff Forster has set his ceramic art pieces titled “North Space Ruin” in the 1800 block of Heights Boulevard.

The ruined part of the title makes sense looking at the rubbish of apparent crashed pieces at the base of these three towering structures. The tallest of the three is the most curvaceous and would probably be the next to take a tumble to the ground.

It reminds me of games, such as building a house of cards. Balance is key. Move a piece slightly off-center, and the next addition is more at risk of collapsing the entire structure.

Jill Bedgood

“Oar Barnacles” is the title of the piece created by Jill Bedgood. San Antonio is her home, where she teaches art. In the last photo (above), there is an oar that is a part of this cast concrete art creation.

Barnacles are typically found in shallow waters as well as in tidal pools of water. Barnacles attach themselves to a surface upon which they then live. Over time their protective calcified plates become hardened.

This sculpture seems to have captured the essence of different items that are encrusted into it, such as scissors, the oar paddle, and other objects. Our oceans, rivers, and lakes are sadly full of things that do not belong there. I am thinking that could be one message that Jill Bedgood intends to share with viewers of this sculpture. What do you think?

Meredith Jack

This massive steel sculpture has the most intriguing title. “Rediscovering Cubism In An Age Of Anxiety 3: Big Boy Is Anxious Too” by Meredith Jack. It can be seen in the 1600 block. This sculpture, much like the ones by Jeff Forster, seems to be precariously balanced. Is that one reason for the “anxiety” in the title?

There are many reasons that people suffer from anxiety in this day and time. It has probably always been the case. With worldwide news available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unless we occasionally unplug from it, much of is a cause for alarm, and anxiety seems to be on the rise.

Is that why this art piece is painted a bright yellow, which is often the color of caution or safety? Meredith Jack has his art studio in Houston.

Peter Mangan

“Metamorphosis” is the title of this eye-catching sculpture by Peter Mangan. The 1200 block is where you will find this artistic creation. Mr. Mangan has a sculpture studio in Blanco, Texas.

A definite alteration in appearance or substantive change in a form such as carbon that becomes a diamond is the meaning of metamorphosis. Looking at the rough rocks in the base of this piece and the shiny crystalline forms near the top is a visual representation. The swirls and other items in the center could represent changes taking place. I like this piece.

John Runnels

Tristan is the grandson of artist John Runnels. His sculpture, “What Goes Around, Comes Around…” is a sphere made up of found hubcaps from numerous vehicles. Tristan helped collect some of those hubcaps as well as assist with the creation of this fantastic art piece.

It is 12 feet in diameter and has lighting from within. Many of these sculptures in the True North 2019 exhibit have illumination making them shine at night and appear different from how they look during the day.

John Runnels co-founded Mother Dog Studios in 1984. It is the oldest artist warehouse in downtown Houston. It is always exciting to be in an environment where other artists work, and sometimes even live. Not only is there a sense of community between the artists, but often they spur on creativity among themselves.

Jeffie Brewer

The orange and white eight-foot-tall painted fox sculpture made out of steel by artist Jeffie Brewer is colorful and makes me smile. His fox with the bushy tail sits in an upright pose in the 800 blocks of Heights Boulevard. Nacogdoches, Texas, is the home where Mr. Brewer teaches as well as creates art.

In reading a bit about him, Jeffie Brewer’s parents owned a junkyard. It was there he learned to appreciate the beauty in the most common of items. He had the very soul of an artist from an early age.

Art-making is not about telling the truth but making the truth felt.

— Christian Boltanski


  • John Runnels:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

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